SP Tamilselvan, the Head of the LTTE's political wing, who was killed in Kilinochchi on Friday in an air raid conducted by the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF), was a political moderate, LTTE watchers say.
"Though he had been a military man for very many years since joining the LTTE in 1984, Tamilselvan could be considered a political moderate in the context of the LTTE's overall militant orientation," a source who had interacted with him closely told Hindustan Times.
Like many young Tamil men did in the years following the anti-Tamil pogrom in Colombo in 1983, Tamilselvan joined the then nascent armed struggle. And like others of that time, he was taken to India for training in basic military tactics, weapons handling and sabotage techniques.
When he came back, he took part in several military operations in North Sri Lanka, including the abortive bid to storm the Elephant Base base camp in 1992. He was wounded in the stomach and the leg and had to be retired from active military service.
But seeing his potential for being a political activist, LTTE chief Prabhakaran began to groom him as a successor to Thileepan who had died in a fast unto death campaign against the activities of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in the late eighties.
Tamilselvan did not speak English, nor was he an ideologue, unlike the Late Dr.Anton Balasingham. Therefore, as long as Balasingham was physically fit and enjoyed the confidence of Prabhakaran, Tamilsevlan had to play second fiddle as far as the foreign media and the international community were concerned.
But Balasingham was mostly abroad. Later he became very ill with a kidney complaint and died. During this period, from the mid 1990s to mid 2000s, Tamilselvan was made to interact with the international community and the media, both Sri Lankan and non-Sri Lankan. What he said in Tamil was translated into English and Sinhala by George, a retired post master.
Except in the first round of talks with the Sri Lankan government led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2002-2003, Tamilselvan had participated in all the remaining five rounds. After the eclipse of Anton Balasingham, Tamilselvan led the LTTE's delegation in its talks with the government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2006.